Loving a Worklife Lifestyle

Photo of Annie Papadakis

Interview with Annie Papadakis

To be honest, we really don’t want to meet disaster management workers in their professional capacity.

But, if that did happen, we would be very grateful for their services.

We would be feeling helpless and vulnerable. They would be taking charge and helping us navigate through uncharted territory.

We can make it easier on ourselves should we ever have to deal with a disaster — download the Canadian Red Cross Be Ready app and follow their suggestions.

Think it can’t happen to you? Recent events in our city have shown how easily it can.

Among those working on the frontline is disaster management professional Annie Papadakis:

Left quotation mark Working with the Red Cross in disaster management is more than a job or even a career for me, it’s a lifestyle.

I knew at the age of nine that I wanted to help people.

I was frequently at the hospital to support my sister after she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

She went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other treatments. And, also went through a number of amputations on her leg.

There were a lot of organizations such as The War Amps and Make A Wish Foundation, helping my family and my sister throughout her experience.

From seeing them rallying for our family, I wanted to help others but just wasn’t sure how I could do it.

I didn’t know there was a degree in disaster management until I found out about the Applied Disaster & Emergency Studies program at Brandon University.

It was the only one in the country at the time, and I said, ‘Yes, that’s for me’ and moved here from Montreal.

While at university I worked for the Red Cross as a 2011 Flood Recovery Supervisor, and in finance, administration and operations.

After graduation, I was the First Nations Flood Recovery Coordinator in Brandon.  In 2015, I became the Westman Outreach Coordinator for disaster management.

Volunteers make up over seventy-five percent of the Canadian Red Cross workforce and are a huge part of who we are.

We value our volunteers so much. We’re always looking for volunteers to add to our team.

I recruit volunteers by going to career symposiums or giving presentations to various organizations and companies.

I do regional training with our volunteers as well as mentor and coach them to take on supervisory roles.

Every month I focus on a different aspect of disaster response training. I try to make training exercises fun because being a volunteer should be an enjoyable experience.

This past January, we turned our office into a giant escape room for one of our exercises.

Everyone had to use their critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and knowledge of disaster management to ‘unlock the door.’

It was a lot of work to put together, but it was so well worth it.

During a response situation, my role varies depending on the scale and scope of the disaster.

Last summer, for example, because of wildfires in northern Manitoba several communities had to be evacuated. We had about 2000 evacuees staying in Brandon.

In that instance, my role was Field Operations Team Lead. So, I was coordinating the lodging sites and reception centre, and overseeing other components related to disaster management.

Our functions change within disasters according to what’s needed, and who we have available for that day.

My disaster management area goes from Swan River down to the United Sates border and from the Saskatchewan border to Portage la Prairie.

For me, an important part of disaster management is to visit communities in my area to get to know the people that I’ll be in contact with if a disaster occurs.

We can do preplanning, and talk about processes that could be put in place.

It’s the same with volunteers. Getting them together for training, meetings and workshops is a way for them to get to know one another.

Then, in a disaster they know which person to go to for a particular area of expertise.

This is an exciting job. I love that I get to be part of providing some comfort and relief to people who are impacted by a disaster.

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by Brandon Now

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